"This is the day which the L-rd has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
(from the Hallel prayer to be recited on Yom Ha'atzma'ut)
Iyyar 4, 5766/May 2, 2006
Sefirat HaOmer: counting our days, telling our stories. Many of the commandments we receive in the Torah and many events related by the Torah involve the act of counting. An example is the past week's Torah reading, Tazriya, in which the new mother is bidden to count her days. Why is the Torah so taken with numbers? A clue can be found in the Hebrew word for counting: saper. It shares the same grammatical root as the word sepor, to tell, and the word for story, sippur.
By counting our days we are really taking stock. And by keeping a mental ledger, we are, in fact, telling our own story: the story of our days. But when does our story begin? Way back in our mother's womb. And where? In the Torah itself. For each of our souls has its ultimate source in the Torah: the blueprint through which G-d formed us. By counting and accounting for our days, we are revealing to ourselves who we are, or at least, who we are meant to be. By using the forty nine days of the Sefirat HaOmer to take stock and work on self improvement, we are writing our own story, one in which we will climb just as high as we can take ourselves. And how high is that? Our sages tell us that our souls have their source in the heavenly sapphire described in Exodus 24:10: "And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet a kind of paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for pureness." The heavenly sapphire, (sapir, in Hebrew), marks our source. But our potential, indeed, is even greater. For our sages continue to tell us that our soul's ultimate destiny is to be found not beneath the throne of heaven, but opposite it. It is simple up to us to "number our days" and strive to be the person G-d intended us to be.
Yom Ha'atzma'ut - Israel Independence Day is tomorrow. Many of us, disillusioned and disappointed by this past summer's self-imposed expulsion and destruction of the thriving communities of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron, are questioning how to mark the day this year. Some ask if we should continue to recognize the day as having spiritual significance. Should we continue, they ask, to recite the Hallel prayer of thanks to Hashem for the miracles he has wrought for us and for the benevolence He has shown us on this day? Perhaps it would do well to recall our own retelling of the Haggada narrative less than three weeks ago, in which the wicked son asks: "What do you mean by this service?" The Haggada instructs us that "By saying you and not including himself as well, he takes himself out of the collective body of the people, and thus denies a basic principle of faith."
"Therefore you, too, must 'set his teeth on edge' and tell him: 'All this is because that which Hashem did for me when I came forth out of Egypt,' for if he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!" Yes, we have been burdened with wicked leaders who by their own deeds certainly do not merit the redemption that G-d has granted us. But the modern state of Israel wasn't G-d's gift to them. It was, and remains, G-d's gift to us all, for we, and not they, are the people of Israel. Heaven forbid we should be embittered toward G-d for the failures of our leaders, which in no small measure are a reflection of our own failures. Perhaps Yom Ha'atzma'ut should be for us a day of stock-taking and recommitment to our own part in the historic role of our people.
Jewish destiny in the land of Israel continues to unfold. The ingathering of the exiles, and the resurgence of vibrant Jewish communities in the land, and the widespread dissemination of Torah knowledge have helped to precipitate an even wider phenomena: the global spiritual awakening of Righteous Gentiles who want to live their lives in the light of the Torah of Israel. Not since two millennia, since the destruction of the Second Temple, have there been so many G-d fearing people the world over crying out for Torah instruction. The recently reestablished developing Sanhedrin in Jerusalem is reaching out to assist this worldwide community.
To learn more about Sefirat haOmer, Yom Ha'atzma'ut, and the concept of Torah observance for Gentiles, listen to this week's TEMPLE TALK, with Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven.
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